I know this drives people barmy, since the UUP only became sanctimonious about double jobbing after four of their five MPs got the chop in the ’05 election… But Cameron is the man of the hour, and in this respect he is dead right… This, frankly is embarrassing:
Across the UK there are 17 MPs with dual mandates, combining a seat in Westminster with a seat in a devolved institution. Of these 17 MPs, 16 are from Northern Ireland: all nine DUP MPs, all five Sinn Fein MPs and two of the SDLP’s three MPs.
And the tone of BT’s article gets it about right too:
It can be argued that the devolution of power needed to be nurtured by the provinces political heavyweights. It took people of the stature of Gerry Adams and the Rev Ian Paisley to sell the idea of power-sharing to their diametrically opposed camp followers. And there is also some validity in the argument that no-one could be totally sure that devolution would work, given past failures. In those circumstances the presence of MPs among the members of the Assembly and Executive was understandable. But as Mr Cameron points out, the time for change is now fast approaching. It is time for those double-jobbing MPs of all parties to decide where their political future lies, be it at Stormont or at Westminster.
The Tory leader makes the entirely valid point that no-one, no matter how talented, can be a full-time representative in both places. By continuing to do both jobs, the double-jobbing MPs are effectively downgrading the importance of both the Assembly and Westminster. They are saying that being an MP or an MLA is really only a part-time job and that it is possible to combine both. That, surely, is not the message they wish to convey.
What Sinn Fein will make of this since their MPs don’t sit, I am not sure. But if they are carrying out representative duties, then perhaps they must consider these arguments apply to them too. But there is little excuse for the other parties not rising to the challenge. It might take some of that unbearable weight off Reg Empey’s shoulders, not being an MP and (regional?) leader of his party. And leave him free to deal properly with those toxic edges…
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty